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Morgan Holmes is a professor of sociology at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, who has published two books on intersex medicine and the law, including Intersex: A Perilous Difference. She is also one of the world’s earliest known intersex activists, and the first openly intersex person who our founder and E.D. saw a picture of, in a 1995 newspaper article in which Holmes discussed the medically unnecessary, irreversible, nonconsensual genital surgeries, aka Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), that she was subjected to as a child.
Today, Morgan continues to educate and advocate on behalf of intersex people, particularly those too young to advocate for themselves, and we are grateful to her for sharing her intelligent, insightful views on the issue of IGM and the medical establishment, such as those expressed in her radio interview with CBC Radio-Canada last week. Holmes discusses the irreversible harms produced by IGM. She also outlines why intersex babies and minors are still routinely subjected to the practice and what needs to change, as she explains below:
“The surgical procedures that are carried out here are often carried out by people who have trained in the United States, they’ve done their residencies, certainly the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the obstetrics and gynecology worlds, they all set this sort of standard of care and if it’s determined that the standard of care in this case shows that it’s actually very abusive — and this has been the argument for the last quarter century, that it is abusive, that it interferes with what’s called a developing autonomy, that it violates the child’s right to bodily integrity — then those surgical fields, the endocrinological fields, and the psych fields, are going to have to take a step back in the entire Western world that uses the same standards and say you know what, we need to hold off on things that cannot be reversed and that are interfering with these children’s integrity.”
Holmes also shares her own personal experience with IGM, in a powerful, beautifully heartbreaking account, ultimately encouraging parents to choose a different life for their intersex children: one filled with the message that they are lovable, rather than the opposite.
“I need to stress that when you pick up an intersex infant, those children are beautiful. They’re every bit as beautiful as anybody else’s child and sometimes the surgeries go wrong and they die, and sometimes what happens is that bits and pieces of our souls, for lack of a better word, our hearts, are turned into crystallized bits that you know, I say they fall off and rattle around my torso like bits of glass inside a cage and you can’t fix that with a later surgery. I found that even a person who loves me dearly, I’ve been with my spouse for 28 years, he can’t fix it either. There is nothing that he can do to undo the lesson that you are so hideous that you cannot be loved.”
We highly encourage you to read or listen to the entire interview, which also features the story of an intersex Canadian named Vic, and to share it with any birth care professionals, allies, parents or others who you think could benefit from hearing, firsthand, about how and why IGM is a harmful human rights abuse. And we thank Morgan for her deep resilience and commitment to making the world a better place for intersex people.